American Deforestation STEM American History Geography Ethics Disasters

By 1926—as depicted in these illustrative maps based on the original work of William. B. Greeley (chief of the U.S. Forest Service from 1920 to 1928)—nearly all of America’s virgin forest land had been cut-down. Online via the University of Michigan.


In America forests
Used to fill-up the land;
But those trees were needed
To fulfill other plans.

 Centuries ago, forests covered much of North America.  Native Americans (in what is now the U.S.) and the First Peoples (in what is now Canada) lived off the land.  After European colonists began arriving, however, the landscape of North America began to drastically change.

  • People needed the land to grow crops, so they could provide food for their families.  To convert forest land to crop lands, they cut down the trees.
  • People needed more land for pastures, so they could raise cattle, and sheep and goats.  To do that, they cut down more trees.
  • People needed the wood from trees so they could build houses and make furniture.  To do that, they cut down even more trees.   

People who came to America began to chop-down trees so fast that it was hardly believable.  We can see how quickly the trees vanished by comparing maps from one period of time to another:

  • By 1850 - seventy-four years after the Declaration of Independence - America's virgin forests had greatly diminished, particularly along the Atlantic seacoast;

Henry David Thoreau, an American who wanted to think about what he saw happening around him - like the ongoing loss of trees - decided to move away for awhile. *  He had a cabin built in the woods, near Walden Pond.  In 1845, he wrote about the beautiful forests which were being destroyed:

Here goes lumber from the Maine woods ... pine, spruce, cedar - first, second, third, and fourth qualities, so lately all of one quality, to wave over the bear, and moose, and caribou ... (The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, Waldenpage 133.)

Today, America has lost most of its virgin forest land.  People are creatively thinking about how to replant wide areas of trees, but in many parts of the country, it is already too late.

As Americans made progress, in growing the nation, they sacrificed some things.  Some of the creatures which once thrived in American forests now have lost (or compromised) habitats.  They include:

Although American deforestation caused fewer species to become extinct, than in other parts of the world, it still caused native animals to greatly decrease in numbers.

So ... is there anything we can do now, after so much damage has already been done, to lower the rates of worldwide tree-cutting - or - to reverse (or stop) all the bad side effects?

*  Thoreau's actions, in moving to a cabin on Walden Pond, later inspired W.B. Years (the famous Irish poet) to pen his much-loved poem "The Lake Isle of Innisfree."

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5199stories and lessons created

Original Release: Mar 01, 2012

Updated Last Revision: Jul 02, 2019

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"AMERICAN DEFORESTATION" AwesomeStories.com. Mar 01, 2012. Apr 01, 2023.
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